Netherlands & Belgium
The Netherlands and Belgium in 35 historical maps
The general name Low Countries is often used for the region covering both The Netherlands and Belgium. The name Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland ) is used for the northern country. It means “low lying lands”. The name Holland (Latin: Hollandia), covering the provinces Noord- and Zuid-Holland, is sometimes used to identify the whole country. It is probably derived from the Germanic word holt-land (“wooded land”) or it may refer to “hollow” or “marsh land”. The name Belgium, for the southern country, came into use after their independence from the United Netherlands in 1830. The name refers to “Land of the Belgae”, a Celtic tribe in he Roman province of Gallia Belgica (Belgic Gaul). The name’s origin is uncertain, but it may be derived from the Proto-Indo-European word bhelgh-, meaning “to bulge” or “to swell”. An alternative theory suggests that it means “bright”. On early maps, the name for the province of Flanders (Latin: Flandria) was also used to identify the whole country. The first printed separate maps of the Low Countries appeared in the midst of the 16th century. In the following period the Latin name Germania Inferior was often used to identify this region, e.g. in Ortelius famous world atlas (1570). The origin of the capital city Amsterdam goes back to ca. 1270. A dam with floodgates was constructed in the river Amstel and the place became an important natural harbour. The origin of the capital city Brussels goes back to the 7th century. It refers to a Frank settlement called Bruoscella (meaning ‘settlement in the swamp’). Maps of both cities were included in the first European town atlas, published by Hogenberg & Braun in 1572.